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to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
In behalf of the South, Jefferson Davis, at about this time, presented in the Senate, as their ultimatum, a set of resolutions. These called for the recognition of slaveproperty as an indefeasible right of territorial settlers, entitled to congressional protection; for the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, and the repeal of the "personal liberty laws" by which it was hindered or nullified in many States; and in general, for the rebuke of all anti-slavery agitation. This was an exact equivalent of Lincoln's interpretation of the South's demand; the North must say that slavery is right, and act accordingly. And this was indeed an ultimatum, with the distinct intimation: "This, or we dissolve the Union."
THE ELECTION OF 1860
Now came on the battle in the Presidential convention. The Democratic convention was dramatic and momentous. It met at Charleston, S. C., in the last days of April, 1860. The struggle was between Douglas and the extreme South. The contest was not over the nomination, but on the resolutions. The Douglas party proposed the reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform of 1856, of which the kernel lay in the words: "Non-intervention by Congress with slavery in State or Territory"; and to this they would now add only a clause referring doubtful constitutional points to the Supreme Court. But the Southern party would accept nothing short of an affirmation that in the Territories until organized as States, the right of slave-holding was absolute and indefeasible, and Congress was bound to protect it. On this issue the dispute in the convention was obstinate and irreconcilable.
The South had long held unbroken sway in the Democracy and in the nation. It had absolutely controlled the last two administrations, though headed by Northern men. Its hold on the Senate had been unbroken, and temporary successes of the Republicans in the House had borne no fruit. The Supreme Court had gone even beyond the demands of the South. Only in Kansas had its cause been lost, because the attempt to coerce a whole territorial population had at last provoked revolt in the Northern Democracy. The breach had been in some sort healed, but the leader of the
revolt was not forgiven or trusted. Meantime the alarm at John Brown's raid had intensified the South's hostility to all opponents or critics. All through the winter there had been constant expulsion of anti-slavery men from that section. And now the Southern forces mustered in the convention of the party they had so long controlled, insistent and imperious, rejecting anything short of the fullest affirmation of their claims in the territories.
Douglas was not on the ground, but through his lieutenants, and still more through the spirit he had infused into his followers, he was a great and decisive power. In the Senate he had been almost isolated among the Democrats; of late only Senator Pugh of Ohio had stood with him against the administration. But he had appealed to the people, and they had answered the call of the sturdy, audacious leader. However he might at times court the favor of the South, he really stood for a broad and simple principle, the right of the majority of white men to rule. For the negroes he cared nothing. But, in the territories, the majority of white men should have slavery or not as they pleased. In the Democratic party, the majority should control. And, in the last resort, in the nation itself the majority should rule. Douglas thus stood squarely for the rule of the majority within the white race. The Republicans coupled with the supremacy of the legal majority in the nation the right and obligation of the majority to maintain the personal freedom of the negro, except where the Constitution allowed the States to maintain slavery. The Southern Democracy asserted as its paramount principle the right of slave-holding wherever the flag flew, except where the State constitution forbade. If that right was denied or limited-by a majority in the Democracy, or by a majority in the nation-then beware!
The Douglas men met the threat with a defiance, not
wordy, but resolute. In Charleston, the stronghold and citadel of the South, with their leader absent, with the disruption of the party impending, they stood their ground. The majority should rule, or they would know the reason why! They decisively outvoted their opponents as to the platform. Then the delegates from South Carolina and the Gulf States deliberately and solemnly marched out of the hall, and organized a separate convention. With that act the rift began to open which was to be closed only after four years of war.
With what expectation did the extreme South thus break up the party? Did they believe that their Northern associates would again capitulate, as they had done so often before? Failing that, did they not know that a divided Democracy meant victory for the Republicans? and had they not committed themselves in that event to dissolve the Union? Were they deliberately courting disunion, and wilfully throwing away the large chance of continued dominance within the Union which a united Democracy might have? Did they really attach supreme importance to this dogma about the territories, when Kansas had shown how inevitably the local population must determine the question, even against the efforts of the Federal Government? Did the Southern leaders prefer the election of a Republican, their open opponent, to Douglas, their friend and half-ally? To such questions as these there can be little more than a conjectural answer. It would be most interesting to know the true thoughts and purposes of the leading delegates. We shall see a little later the interpretation given by one of their defenders. But the strong presumption is that their action was the fruit less of a policy than of a temper. They had long been growing into a disposition which could brook no resistance and no contradiction. The irresponsible power of the master over his
slaves; the domination of the slave-holding class over the local communities, and the expulsion of their opponents; the control of the government by a united South over a divided North,-these things had bred a self-confidence and self-assertion which would stop at nothing. The slaveholding principle, in full flower, was a principle which recked nothing of legal majorities or governments. Its basis was force, and it would use whatever force was necessary to maintain itself.
The Douglas Democrats were still patient. Left with the original convention in their hands, they declined to press their advantage. The traditional rule required a twothirds vote to nominate; and it was agreed that for this purpose the seats left vacant by the seceders must be counted,-which would prevent the nomination of Douglas. Administration men from the North had stayed in the convention when their Southern friends left. The body adjourned, to meet in Baltimore in the last of June. The rival convention met in Richmond only to adjourn to the same time and place. But any hopes of reunion were vain. Neither side would yield. In the regular convention, to some of the vacant seats Douglas delegates had in the interim been chosen. They were admitted, against the protest of the administration minority, who found in this a pretext for withdrawing and joining the seceding convention. With these went a majority of the Massachusetts delegates, including Benjamin F. Butler and Caleb Cushing; Cushing had been president of the Charleston body. The two conventions now made their respective nominations. With Douglas was joined for Vice-President Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia. The seceders nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky and Joseph Lane of Oregon. Breckinridge was Vice-President under Buchanan; a man of character and ability, of fine presence and bearing, a